Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Recap

Why does Thanksgiving always catch me off guard? Last year, Mr. G and I had a wedding that week, and this year it came earlier than usual. I'm never prepared. It's probably a good thing I don't have any fall decorations, because Thanksgiving always comes and goes faster than I can throw away my pumpkin and log into Pinterest for craft ideas.

The one thing I've managed to somehow prepare in time for Thanksgiving is the food. Even though I don't typically start thinking about it until the week before and cooking it the night or two before, it's miraculously worked out so far. I even (successfully) cooked my first turkey last year! We spent Thanksgiving with my in-laws this year, so everyone brought one dish. Since I love holiday cooking, I contributed a couple more. :) Here is what I made for this year's feast:
  • 11-lb Turkey (for Mr. G and me)
  • Apple & Goat Cheese Salad
  • My Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole
  • 44 Cupcakes -- 18 Pumpkin, 26 Chai :)


For my turkey directions, check out my Thanksgiving post from last year. I only did a couple things differently this year: I cooked the turkey in an oven bag (it keeps the pan clean and browns the skin), and I used the packet provided by Jenni-O for gravy instead of my mother-in-law's recipe (we didn't keep enough drippings to make the latter, but it was still really good!). And FYI, Jenni-O turkeys have a thermometer that pops out when the turkey is cooked, so it's super easy to tell when it's done. I made this for our "round two" of Thanksgiving at home, just for Mr. G and me. We had it with mashed potatoes and leftover sweet potato casserole (starches much?).

And in case you're wondering, I'm STILL eating turkey leftovers.

Apple & Goat Cheese Salad

This was inspired by the Apple Gorgonzola Salad at Buca di Beppo. I worked there for four years, and that salad was always my favorite. I posted this recipe once before and called it the "summer apple salad." Here's the link. Try it out -- it's a light, sweet salad that pairs well with a raspberry/cranberry/walnut vinaigrette and can be enjoyed as much in the fall or winter as in the summer. :)

Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole

My mom makes the best casseroles. Maybe it was her Southern roots, but holidays at my house were always delicious and abundant. This is one of her sweet potato casserole recipes. I've made this one three years in a row now, but this year was the first time I tried the crunchy topping (usually I just do marshmallows). For the record, the crunchy topping is way better! Here is her recipe:

  • 2 c sweet potatoes (canned is fine)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Topping:
    • 3/4 c crushed corn flakes
    • 1/2 c chopped nuts (I chopped up honey glazed peanuts)
    • 1/2 c brown sugar
    • 6 tbsp melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bake sweet potatoes according to directions on can. Mash when they are cooked.
  3. Add eggs, melted butter and spices to mashed potatoes.
  4. Slowly add milk until mixture reaches pudding consistency.
  5. Pour mixture into greased 9x9 pan and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle topping on casserole when it comes out of the oven. Return casserole to the oven to bake 10 additional minutes.

Chai Cupakes

I've been wanting to make chai cupcakes for a long time. I have a slight major obsession with chai tea. I drink it every single morning while getting ready for work, and I usually order it whenever I go out for coffee. (For those who share my obsession: my favorite chai makers are Panera, Starbucks and Uncommon Grounds in Minneapolis.) Sadly, these cupcakes turned out to be much more challenging than I expected due to several issues I encountered with this recipe. I got it from Pinterest (naturally), and the blogger who posted it neglected a few details:
  1. I had no idea how many cupcakes the batter was supposed to make (I wanted 12 cupcakes and ended up with 26).
  2. The ingredients were very imbalanced -- the dry/wet ratio was off due to the pot of CHAI TEA I added. Even after adding several additional cups of flour/sugar and test baking three cupcakes, I still ended up with soupy batter and sad little cupcake craters.
  3. The frosting recipe (honey cinnamon swiss meringue) lacked directions entirely. Have you ever made swiss meringue? If so, you know that it requires VERY specific directions. With most frostings, if there are no special directions, you can pretty much throw all the ingredients in the KitchenAid and mix them up. Not so with swiss meringue! I eventually found these directions and was able to make a successful swiss meringue (after throwing out a batch), but Mr. G hated it. :( I liked it, but just in case I was the weird one, I made a double batch of my go-to buttercream -- Magnolia Bakery's vanilla buttercream. (Pro tip: use less butter or more confectioner's sugar if you want buttercream that doesn't melt; I've learned this the hard way. Multiple times.)
Thankfully, even though they looked pitiful, the cupcakes actually tasted amazing. I think they may be my new favorites.... In spite of how angry they made me!

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes last year around Thanksgiving for the first time. Here's the link to my post with the recipe. This year, I substituted the vanilla buttercream for the cream cheese frosting and sprinkled cinnamon on top. I was going to make a salted caramel frosting, but after two (kinda) failed attempts at the swiss meringue, I just decided to make something that would work for both the chai and pumpkin cupcakes. Whatever, I was tired.

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you try any new recipes, or do you have classics that you always make? Feel free to share your recipes and your cooking/baking stories and screw-ups with me. :)

<3 Mrs. G

P.S. I may not have any Thanksgiving decorations, but Christmas I've got covered. Right now I'm working on a burlap ruffle tree skirt (Pinterest project, of course). I'll post it soon!

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